There are times when going back to our common Jewish roots lends so much richness to our faith journey. Isn’t it true that although we may be of different faiths, we can learn from each other how to celebrate and thank God for his presence in our lives and for all we have been given? I think, that as a Catholic, I can learn this week, as the Jewish Faith Communities celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles – also called Ingathering, the Festival of Booths or Sukkoth. It’s one of three pilgrimage festivals in the Old Testament and commemorates God’s protection of the Israelites during the years they wandered in the desert on their way out of Egyptian slavery (the Exodus) and toward the Promised Land. This is an agricultural event spoken of in Ex 23.16. “You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.” It can in some ways parallel the truest sense of Thanksgiving. In Lev 23.34 we read, “There shall be the festival of booths to the Lord.” In Deut 16.13 we hear: ” You shall keep the festival of booths for seven days, when you have gathered in the product from your threshing floor and your wine press. Rejoice, during your festival..Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns,” calling us to the social justice elements (biblical hospitality) of the Feast. This celebration begins each year in late September or early October. This week, in Jewish communities around the world, people eat and sleep in their sukkah, a temporary dwelling they’ve erected, and invite scriptural guests and strangers as an important piece of the ritual. Stories are told as they celebrate God’s presence in their lives and the harvest of the year.
For us, this scriptural festival can remind us to do the same… To take the time to be thankful for all we have been given… for the harvests in our lives – times of physical and spiritual nourishment and for the abiding presence of God in our lives as we’ve traversed our personal moments of wandering in the desert. While we may not physically construct temporary dwellings like those of Jewish heritage may… we can consider the element of biblical hospitality: what strangers, orphans, widows, or others at disadvantage can make room for in our lives? We can consider the times we’ve felt or been homeless and how God has carried the temporary tents of our bodies through it. Here are a few references to this Feast: In Lk 9:33; Matt 17:4; MK 9:5, passages of The Transfiguration, we find reference to the Festival of Booths. Here are additional Jewish resources that can tell you much more about this festival:
For the history and biblical references:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot
For a beautiful story of the biblical couples invited to the sukkah table each evening: http://telshemesh.org/tishrei/ushpizin_welcoming_guests_for_sukkot.html
- Sukkot 2012: Dates, Customs Of The Jewish Feast Of The Tabernacle Explained (huffingtonpost.com)
- Sukkot: Time of our joy, time of our art projects (anitasilvert.wordpress.com)
- Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles – סוכות (hebrewdailyphrase.com)
- SUKKOT- Past, Present and Future (graftedinelena.wordpress.com)